24 Sep 2016

Photoproject: 100 visits to Seri Huamark Market (days 1-10)

After thinking carefully, I settled on one project that seemed attractive and feasible, and that fulfilled three criteria that I considered essential:
1) It was interesting for me (essential to keep me dragged and motivated over a long period of time).
2) It was near my neighborhood (helpful to fight against eventual laziness, might that arise at some point).
3) It was clearly defined yet flexible at the same time (which would bring structure while keeping things open to variation at the same time).

Day 01, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Day 01b, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Day 01c, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Deal! I would pay 100 visits to the same place, as often as I could, preferably every day unless I had some serious work-related compromises that would prevent it or if I was out of the city. The place shouldn't be too big so as not to risk dispersion but not too small to keep interest for such a prolonged period of time. I could go any time of the day or night and I would linger there until I had captured at least one image that made me happy, which could range from as little as 15 minutes to more than 1 hour. The idea behind the project was to explore a space that would start being alien and, slowly, make it my own through careful observation and familiarity.

Day 02, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Day 02b, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Day 02c, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
One place that fulfilled all those conditions was Seri Huamark Market (ตลาดโต้รุ่งเสรีหัวหมาก), a small fresh market in my neighborhood that I had past by countless times in the last six years but that I had never really paid any attention to, a place that represents the area where I live and my own life these past 6 years as good as any other place could. Done! That would be my hunting ground and the place where I would embark upon to regain my faded passion. 100 visits to Seri Huamark Market was therefore born and I was excited to start my voyage.

Day 03, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Day 03b, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
The number of days had no special meaning, it was just a number I considered to be significant enough to give me time to discover all the nooks and crannies of the market and to help me make it part of myself; the fact of the number being round would besides bring frame and a clear closure to the project, which would also be helpful. I paired the small GM1 with the PanaLeica 15mm, a combo that seemed to be the perfect match for this kind of street photography, and I was all set to start.

Day 04, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Day 04b, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Day 04c, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Day 04d, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
The firs days I visited the market in the afternoon, on my way back home after work, and I took my time to wander around to get a feel for it, for its dimensions, its flow, its colors, smells and people. Everything was new so I had no expectations or preconceptions of what I might find and capture whatsoever, I just walked slowly around the narrow aisles, smiling to the vendors, who where quite surprised to see a westerner with a camera in their realm and that, at first, showed not much interest in me. They kept doing their things as I walked past, though some of them seemed a bit uncomfortable with my presence around, even rejecting me when I approached them. In those instances I just smiled, and kept walking.

Day 05, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Day 05b, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Day 05c, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Day 05d, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Day 05e, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
For the most part, I kept my camera in aperture priority, as I focused mainly in static subjects; I usually shot at f4 to f5.6 because the interior of the market could be quite dark and I feared raising the ISO too much, but that increased the risk of out of focus areas in the images, so I slowly learnt how to compromise the different settings and I ended up working with Auto ISO and raising its limit to 6400, which gave me more leeway to adjust the other parameters and keep everything in focus.

Day 06, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Day 06b, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
The outdoor areas of the market were, however, much brighter, and this huge difference in brightness was a big challenge to the dynamic range of the camera, something that forced me to be always very careful with my backgrounds, my exposure and my composition, to avoid areas of harsh contrast. I had some interesting indoor images ruined by burned highlights in the outdoor backgrounds, which has taught me to be more careful with my composition afterwards, and adjust my perspective accordingly. In those instances were high dynamic range was unavoidable, I learnt to underexpose the image, as noise is always preferable to washed out whites.

Day 07, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Day 07b, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
As the days passed, I had only one motto in my mind: trying not to shoot the same scene twice. I forced myself to look for different subjects or different approaches, and this kept things fresh and interesting. The market was still new to me, so I never ran out of things to shoot and corners to discover, and, despite its humble size, every day seemed totally different from the previous ones, therefore I never fell into repetition during these first days. It remains to be seen if I can keep finding new angles and subjects in the subsequent 90 days!

Day 08, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Day 08b, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Day 08c, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Day 08d, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
These firs days were more about seeing than shooting, so I was not worried about the number of images I captured; I felt relaxed and excited, so I usually went back home with 20 to 100 images. Most of the days I knew straightaway what image would be the selected one, for it had been one of those eye-opening moments that happen unexpectedly, but other days I was not quite sure, and I would have to check the captures later in the computer to select the best one. But I decided that I would not check the pictures the same day of capture, I wanted to give them some room to breathe and I wanted to keep on shooting without thinking too much about my previous images, so I would sort out my photos only after every ten days were completed.

Day 09, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Day 09b, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
As for my discipline, I didn't miss a single day, so it was an encouraging beginning: I had not resorted to self-excuses or fallen into boredom or repetition at all, I had kept my plan and, in return, I had started to discover a place that seemed to offer plenty of opportunities. I was happy, I was motivated, I was eager to continue and see where the road would lead me, so I ended up the first 10 days in high spirits and willing to continue without interruption.

Day 10, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Day 10b, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Day 10c, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Day 10d, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Day 10e, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm

12 Sep 2016

My first photo project: overcoming photographer's block

A year ago I stumbled upon a surprising and unexpected guest: photographer's block. I don't really know what caused it but there it was, clear as day: I had no motivation to keep on shooting weekly as I had been doing for the past 2 years, and my cameras endured neglect for months; all that once was exciting and challenging had become unappealing and dull, and only occasional trips abroad were able to ignite the passion –albeit shortly– again. I had no idea when (if at all) that would finish. In the end, it lasted for about 10 months, until last May I decided it was about time to confront this drought and actively do something to fight against it. As a first step I joined a photography workshop, which made me realize that inspiration would not come back on its own and that I had to actively chase it; one of the methods suggested as an antidote was to embark on a personal project, which would give me FOCUS, something I was severely lacking before.

The way in, GX80 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Don't misunderstand me: that medicine wouldn't have helped in the slightest without the real driving force: my own determination to revert the situation. Once that had been set in motion, then, the rest of the things started falling into place progressively and, step by step, the machinery gained strength. The first thing to do was to set upfront a few, clear objectives that I wanted to accomplish with my project, and I synthesized them in just 2 words: COMMITMENT and PRACTICE. I wanted to recover the lost drive, and in order to achieve that I had to be more disciplined, which, in turn, would hopefully help me to improve my skills and to learn new things in the process.

Welcome, GX80 + Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm
I had no preconceived idea of what I would do at the end with all the images captured, because all that mattered to me at that point was just having fun shooting as I once did. To keep me engaged and motivated throughout the project, I decided that I would post one picture a day in my Instagram account the following 100 days, and every 10 days I would write a post here in the blog documenting how things were progressing, showing the selected images plus some other captures that I liked. And with those few notions in my head, I only had to choose the theme of the project, and I was ready to start! So today I start this journey that, if nothing else, at least will bring me (and my cameras) out for a walk almost everyday. See you right away in Instagram and back here in 10 days with the first chapter!

The way out, GX80 + Panasonic Leica 15mm